Last week, UKC were at the massive winter tradeshow, ISPO Munich, checking out the latest gear innovations. First we announced the highlights of the ISPO Munich 2012 Awards. Then, in a video news item, we introduced the range of five new / completely revamped ice axes from DMM.
Has the dust settled on the waterproof-breathable fabric war? Polartec Neoshell, Gore-Tex Active Shell and Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q now sit side by side in shops.
Polartec are still 'chipping away' at Gore, claiming Neoshell offers 'five times the air permeability of the leading waterproof-breathable'. Gore, meanwhile, are consolidating their range: focussing on categorising their fabrics more clearly. But Mountain Hardwear have a new waterproofing concept on the cards, which works at a molecular level...
What else? Down jackets get cleverer. 'DownTek' and 'DriDown' have both been working on 'hydrophobic down'. The feathers are coated with a nano (very small) material, which makes water bead and roll off.
'Hybrid' jackets designed on a 'body mapping' principle will have bred by next winter. For example, heavy-duty waterproof breathable fabric used across the shoulders, and soft shell down the sides. Or soft shell sleeves with a synthetic insulated body.
And 'sponsored athletes' or 'ambassadors' get more involved in designs: Ueli Steck introduces his Mountain Hardwear range, while Conrad Anker introduces the new TNF Meru range...
The iconic Alpha SV Jacket, built from a new Arc'teryx-developed Gore-Tex fabric, wins an innovation award
Arcteryx are globally renowned for 'micro madness' - incredible attention to finishing details, premium fabrics and components. The brand 'search the globe' to find perfect fabrics, or help manufacturers develop them. No surprise then that their iconic Alpha SV Jacket (£450), which uses a new 'Arc'teryx-developed Gore-Tex fabric', won an ISPO Award for outdoor clothing innovation.
The Alpha SV has been a main player in the Arc'teryx range since 1998. The Gore-Tex fabrics used have changed over the years, as have finer details of construction and fit, but it's recognisably the same jacket. The ISPO jury panel found the latest incarnation remarkable for its functionality, light weight, attention to detail, durability and freedom of movement. The face fabric is a new N80p-X Gore-Tex. Very densely woven and strong, it also offers exceptional long-term water repellency. It's available next Autumn.
Below, Tom Duguid from Arc'teryx tells why the updated Alpha SV Jacket is 'the best in the business':
Berghaus' new elite team of top designers, MtnHaus, introduce 'body mapped hydrophobic down'
Last year Berghaus introduced 'MtnHaus' (see this news item). The Winter 2012-13 Extrem range will feature more innovations from MtnHaus, using top quality fabrics from Gore, Pertex, Primaloft and Polartec. The main innovation, though, lies in the filling. 'Body mapped hydrophobic down'. See right for two globes, in which nestle normal down and hydrophobic down. Other brands will be using it in coming seasons, but Berghaus currently seem to be the only ones talking about it.
The Ramche Jacket (£300), for example, uses a 'three zone' principle to body map the down placement. 850 fill power down is distributed at different densities according to where the body most easily generates and loses heat. The baffles across the front of the jacket use super-warm 'box wall' baffles to avoid drafts caused by through stitching and give the down more room to loft. The shoulders and side panels, meanwhile, are stitched through to allow air flow. What else? The fit is athletic; the hood fixed and helmet compatible. Outside there are two zipped pockets, inside there's a water bottle pocket.
Whatever Berghaus have done to the down, it works. My sleeping bag became damp and cold but the Ramche held its loft and just kept going. I can't speak highly enough of it.
Gore's key message for 2012
Last year GORE-TEX® introduced their new laminate fabric, Gore-Tex Active Shell. It's a very different animal to any Gore that has gone before. To make sure that everyone gets the right jacket for them, this year Gore were keen to explain the firm divides between the fabrics they produce for the outdoor market.
While each fabric comes with the 'guaranteed to keep you dry' promise, they do very different things. For example Pro Shell, designed to be bombproof and rugged for mountaineering use, is at the complete opposite end of the scale to Active Shell, which is designed to be as light and breathable as possible.
In the video below, Lewis Grundy, Gore-Tex Business Leader in Mountain Sports Garments, explains further:
More innovative designs added to Mammut's new Eiger Extreme collection
Last year, to celebrate their 150th birthday, Mammut launched their top of the range Eiger Extreme collection. It's expensive, so what do you get for your money?
As an example of the attention to design detail, the new superwarm Eigerjoch (£400) (men's) and Biwak (women's version) down jackets feature what Mammut call 'double-chamber' construction (also known as 'V-construction' and more usually seen in sleeping bags - see image below left). A zigzag of 45 degree walls prevents cold bridges caused by through stitching. High quality 800 fill down is then weighed for each chamber, to ensure optimal loft.
Meanwhile, Fibrefill body mapping inserts (see below right) draw moisture away from the body under the arms and down the back, where a rucksack might press. This 'OTI' (Optimised Thermal Insulation) is a brand new filling, designed not to lose performance after washing. There are other neat details, such as built-in wrist gaiters, so you don't necessarily need glove liners.
New designs to suit modern demands and techniques, plus bright new colours push Marmot far from their old 1990's look
Marmot's Winter 2012-13 collection is focused on consolidation. Each product category has new styles 'designed to meet the demands of new and developing techniques practised by modern outdoor enthusiasts'.
The shell range has been expanded, with plenty of new Gore-Tex Pro gear: the Alpinist Jacket has been updated, too. The well known Variant Jacket will have new siblings: a hooded version using Thermal R insulation, another using Primaloft one and a down filled Alpinist Hybrid Jacket. These will be £140 and £170 respectively.
The insulation range has been given a new look - one interesting new jacket is the Quasar (£210). It's made from a 10 Denier Pertex Quantum fabric, has 900 fill goose down filling and so is very warm for it's light weight: 255g for men and 221g for women (medium sizes).
Finally, two new gloves worth looking out for next year: the Armageddon Undercuff Glove (£130) and Exum Guide Undercuff Glove (£85).
The colours shown may look bright, and perhaps more suitable for European climbers, but apparently they are proving very popular in Britain, too. Marmot say they have still sold a significant amount of black to UK retailers but times are changing...
Plenty of gear that looks amazing for winter climbing and skiing - check out the face mask of the Eclipse Hooded (not very high street, perhaps...)
Mountain Equipment will be further promoting their industry first Down Codex project this year. As of the Spring you will be able to enter your down products unique code on their website and trace your down to its source.
There's plenty of new gear for Winter 2012-13 that looks amazing for winter climbing and skiing. The Pulsar Jacket (available in men's and women's versions) is a highly protective winter soft shell combining Polartec Powershield Pro and Gore Windstopper X-Fast, which has a zoned micro-fleece lining.
The Eclipse Hooded, meanwhile, looks similar to some other things on the market but is apparently considerably better in use. Mountain Equipment have worked with Pontetorto (an Italian fabric manufacturer) to develop two thicknesses of micro-grid fleece. They feel these strike the perfect balance between insulation, moisture transfer and stretch.
The integral hood / face mask/ neck gaiter is also unique and can be used together or independently, with or without a helmet. The face mask has been specifically designed so it can be pulled up and down with a helmet on. All the ME Pro Partners are apparently all raving about this one, even if it's not very high street!
Ueli Steck talks us through his own range
Ueli worked closely with Mountain Hardwear's designers to create this range. He tells us what he particularly likes about the gear, why he thinks it has been commercially successful, and how the idea for the range first came about.
Essentially Mountain Hardwear halved the weight of clothing and kit Ueli wears and carries in the mountains, from roughly 12 kilos to 6. The new 'Ueli Steck System' consists of 14 items, and the whole set costs about £2500. The range is available in both men's and women's versions.
The main items from the Ueli Steck Collection are below; there are also some gloves, hats and a balaclava.
- Quasar Pullover - a Dry Q Elite anorak (261g)
- Quasar Pant - Ultralight full side zip pants (369g)
- Nilas Jacket - 850 fill down jacket (631g)
- Desna Pullover - a versatile Power Stretch pullover (349g)
- Nilas Pant - 850 fill down trousers (697g)
- Warlow Pant - Stretch pants (392g)
- Estero Long Sleeve Zip T - a wicking T (158g)
- Direkt 2 Tent - a super light 2 person expedition tent (1.12kg)
- Mtn Speed 32 sleeping bag - a superlight 850 down fill bag (446g)
- SummitRocket 30 daypack (450g)
- SummitRocket 40 pack (750g)
Last year Gore-tex was back in the range; this year Patagonia's own H2No has made a return
Last year Patagonia began buying into Gore-tex again. Some, who appreciate Patagonia's greener than green credentials, saw it as a step backwards: for the past few years the brand has only used their own H2No fabric.
It seems Patagonia missed the heavy-weight punch of the most well-known waterproof-breathable fabric, so put a deal to Gore-tex: Patagonia would work with Gore to make their production process more environmentally friendly.
There is more Gore-tex in the winter 2012 range, including a new Active Shell trail running jacket: the 'Light Flyer' (£230). The main focus though, seems to have been bringing their own wittily-titled (and cheaper) H2No collection up to speed in looks and function.
If you're not familiar, H2No is essentially a waterproof-breathable coating on a high performance face fabric. It comes in 3, 2.5 and 2 layer variations offering different levels of durability v breathability.
The £300 Exosphere is the premier new 3 layer hard shell, while the Mixed Guide Hoody (£260) is another 'hybrid' piece. It's based on the popular Guide Hoody, but designed on a new 'body mapping' principle. It combines H2No protection with the stretch and breathability of Polartec soft shell. Ideal for ski touring and ice climbing?
Jenna Johnson talks us through the Mixed Guide Hoody:
Glove range revamped, new sibling in the benchmark Generator range...
If you haven't seen Rab's new website, it has lots more information on it including videos, user feedback, technical information and news about the Rab sponsored athletes. (More in this news item: Brand new Rab website).
There's plenty of new and updated gear in Rab's 2012-13 Winter range, constructed from their usual fabrics of choice: Polartec, eVent, Pertex and Primaloft. In response to user feedback, the staple superwarm Summit Down Jacket (£240) will have a Vislon zip for Winter 2012 to avoid it sticking, and a fixed hood so you can't lose it! (no, they don't make spares!) They'll also bring back the women's version.
The whole glove range has been revamped, and there'll be a women's version of the popular Latok winter glove, and an all new leather Guide glove (£65), amongst others (see right).
The popular Rab Generator range is filled with the industry standard in microfibre insulation, Primaloft One (it apparently absorbs 3 times less water, is 14% warmer when dry and is 24% warmer when wet than the competitive insulation) and coated with Pertex Quantum, the lightest fabric made by the industry leaders in face fabrics, Pertex (it weighs 30g/m2). The whole Generator range has had an update in style and fabric and there's a brand new jacket in the range, the Generator Stretch, with Polartec side panels.
Below, Dan Thompson talks us through the Generator Stretch:
The North Face
Conrad Anker talks us through the Meru range he helped design
The North Face had a big presence at ISPO. Via a huge screen, they conducted a live interview with their sponsored athletes Simone Moro and Dennis Urubko at Nanga Parbat Base Camp. They were waiting for the right weather to attempt an assault on the ninth highest peak in the world. There was plenty of new kit to see - we were particularly interested in the Meru range.
The Meru expedition range was developed with TNF athletes Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk specifically for their second attempt on the previously unclimbed 20,700-foot Shark's Fin of Meru, in the Garhwal Himalaya of India. They failed in 2008 but were successful last October (wearing the Meru kit!).
Based on their extensive feedback and input from their first expedition, every piece of the Meru Kit was built specifically to meet the demands of the team for their return trip to Meru. The Radish Mid-layer is made from a lightweight stretch fleece with a 'hard face' finish. Other interesting technical details in the range include more 'body mapping' (the down of the Shaffle Jacket is compartmentalised and built up in the core and back), welded rather than stitch-through baffles; and grippy shoulders and hip patches on the Pinnacle (Gore-Tex Active Shell) Jacket to prevent rucksack slippage.
Conrad Anker talks us through the Meru Range below:
Sherpa Outdoor Adventure Gear
New outdoor gear brand arriving in the UK
Sherpa Adventure Gear has been around for a few years in many other countries including the US and Canada. It's arriving in the UK this Autumn (www.sherpaadventuregear.com). The company was founded in 2003 by Tashi Sherpa, whose uncle was one of the Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hilary's first ever expedition to the top of Everest.
Sherpa athlete ambassadors test and help design the gear, most of which is manufactured in Nepal. The company employs 150 people in Nepal and donates a portion of every sale to the Paldorje Education Fund, which the company established to fund the education of Sherpa children.
Sherpa make a comprehensive line of very good looking technical outdoor gear, including base layers, down, synthetic and wool insulating pieces, and hard and soft shell jackets and pants. Hats handmade by knitting circles in Nepal a speciality. The Eco-librium line of products includes jackets with 100% recycled polyester, organic cotton and Primaloft Eco insuation.
Below, Tsedo Sherpa, daughter to company founder Tashi Sherpa, introduces the new Sherpa brand including the story of their origin and ethos: